“Can we watch IT!” they scream at me. A gaggle of twelve-year-old girls never “ask” or “say”. They scream. All the time. Especially when it’s a slumber party.
“No. Absolutely not,” I say. My voice is not raised nor is it rushed. It’s level and calm. The voice of a father who can’t believe what the hell he was just asked.
“Awww, but we want to,” the sirens howl. Howling happens as much as the screaming.
“I don’t care. No way in heck,” I say. Heck is me realizing that these six girls I’m watching over tonight will go home, and repeat what I say to their own parents. So it’s probably best that I don’t say “Hell no!”
“I’ve seen IT already!” several of the girls counter.
“Yeah. With my mom. My mom will let me.”
I want to point out that these two statements contradict themselves. If you’ve seen the movie, why would your mom let you see the movie after the fact? There is a small part of me that wants to get into it with them, but I realize that getting into a debate with preteens is generally best avoided. It’s like arguing with a crow; all screeches and eventually someone is going to try and peck my eyes out.
“I don’t care who has seen IT, and who hasn’t seen IT. Not gonna happen,” I say.
“But it’s not even that scary.”
This is how I know that they are all collectively lying to me. IT is scary as heck.
“There’s no blood in IT.”
“IT isn’t that scary. There’s hardly any scary parts.”
“There is a creepy clown waving the severed arm of a child. That’s enough,” I say.
All the girls go silent for a moment, and I’m hoping that they are reconsidering their request.
“We want to watch IT! Please!”
Crap. Other people are starting to look at our table at the pizza joint. The waitstaff sat us right in front. There’s the front door, and then there is our table. The girls are so loud with their begging that the entire restaurant is questioning my parenting. Awesome.
I told the waiter that I needed a table for seven. One dad and six twelve-year-old girls. His face went pale, and his eyebrows clinched together. There was pity behind his eyes. I took it. The waiter was experienced enough to know what was going to happen tonight. He looked at my book and earphones that I had brought with me. I like to think that he sat us up front so that he could keep an eye on me.
As he took us to our table, all of two steps away, he told me not to worry.
He would take care of me. Not us. Me. I could use a distraction right now.
“IT really is good and not that bad,” our waiter says as he brings everyone their water. Betrayal always hurts.
“See!” they all scream at me. Again.
Their request doesn’t bother me that much. After all, this is a slumber party. A father should expect these types of things. But what bothers me is that they don’t seem to get how this is supposed to work. I mean, c’mon, this is basic slumber party 101. They aren’t supposed to ask me at all. Did I ask my parents if I could watch Friday The 13th when I was ten? Hell no. We did what you are supposed to do.
Once the parents go to bed we went directly to the VHS tapes that they said we weren’t allowed to watch. Around 3 am, we finally called it quits, and went to bed terrified. The parents watching us had plausible deniability. That’s how you are supposed to watch scary movies during a slumber party.
They have not only misjudged their opportunity here but also their audience. Let’s take a good look at me. There are grass stains on my tennis shoes from mowing the lawn last summer. I need a new pair, but my daughter also needs braces so I tend not to indulge myself very much.
One leg of my red sweatpants is tucked into my black sock. I have a book and headphones in a restaurant. My body has a slight sag, my shoulder aches, and when I’m not involved in this conversation I’m thinking about setting time aside to complete my taxes. I am every bit the suburban father.
The walking cliche and the only thing missing is a conversation about boys. I will ask about that later.
“My cousin got to watch IT.”
“Yeah, mine did too. She said IT was fine. Totally not scary.”
“Can we watch The Conjuring?”
Twelve-year-old girls never stop. Ever. I’ll give them credit for that. That’s something that this suburban father can latch onto. It’s not that I want them to be total hell raisers.
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I just know that sometimes they need to push back on authority. I want them growing up knowing that “the man” is often full of shit, and that they should take matters into their own hands to make their futures happen.
They are going to be told ‘no’ a lot. They are going to be pushed aside or told that they can’t do something because they are girls. It’s at that moment I want them to say “screw you” and do it anyway. That’s what I want. For all of them, for all my young women, not my little girls. I want them to kick ass.
The waiter brings a large cheese pizza, a pepperoni pizza, and a Chicken Alfredo for one of the girls that doesn’t like pizza. They quickly eat while asking other questions.
“Can we eat sugar?” The girls point to the condiment container. They sift through the pink and yellow squares until they find the packets that are white.
“No,” I say. The girls put the packets back.
After dinner, they ask for money to go play some of the carnival games that are in another room. I hand my wallet to my daughter. She grabs some money, and she gives me a quick kiss on the forehead.
“Ten minutes, no more,” I tell them. “Then we can go home, and I will go to bed. Netflix is setup and you can rent a movie off Amazon.”
I hope they notice what I just did. I have given them the keys to the IT kingdom. From here on out, it’s up to them.
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I bury myself in my book, but from the side of my eye, I catch them stopping at the empty table between us and the game room. Six sets of little fingers start pulling sugar packets out of the condiment tray. Two of them rip open the packets and down the sugar before anyone has a chance to say anything.
Kickass girls. Kickass.
Shannon Carpenter is a strapping older gentleman who enjoys the occasional doughnut topped with chocolate. And sprinkles, yeah sprinkles. Sprinkles are the bomb. As an At-Home Dad for the last nine years, he vows to take all comers in the speed diaper changing challenge. Bring your A game. Read more of his adventures, with his three kids, at www.hossmanathome.com. Currently represented by The Kepner Agency.